Jameson Taillon, Chicago Cubs - Taillon fanned a pair of batters in the first inning as a Cubs, including Steven Kwan and Josh Naylor. Taillon has gone on record saying that he's reworked his slider to be more of a sweeping slider, and that appears to be the pitch that he struck out Kwan on, which is not an easy feat. Taillon inked a $68 million deal in the offseason with the Cubs and should slot in as the number two starter on the team. He posted a 14-5 record last season and a 3.91 ERA with the Yankees, with a strikeout rate that continues to hover around 20%. He's a fine fantasy arm but lacks the upside to be much more than a SP 4-5, especially now that he's out of New York and we should expect a decline in wins.
Riley Greene, Detroit Tigers - Greene could end up in the leadoff role for the Tigers according to those reporters that are around the team. Nothing has been decided yet, but it sounds like he's one of the options the team is considering. Greene had a solid season in his rookie campaign, hitting .253 with five homers and 46 runs scored while he got back from a foot injury that he suffered last spring. Despite the run of the mill numbers, his underlying stats give some hope for 2023. Greene had a max exit velo of 112.1 MPH, a hard-hit rate of 45%, but what kills him was the strikeout rate of near 30% and a groundball rate of near 60%. If he can start to lift the ball a bit more there's a chance for a real breakout here, especially with the fences at Comerica Park being moved in a bit.
Max Fried, Atlanta Braves - Max Fried made his spring debut Monday and tossed a pair of clean innings with four strikeouts against, though it was against a mostly minor league matchups for the Blue Jays. Fried is coming off a monster 2022 with 14-7 record and a 2.48 ERA. The only thing that holds Fried back from being an ace-ace are his strikeouts being at a middle of the road rate. His 4.4% walk rate last season was the lowest of his career and his hard-hit rate against him was 32%, good to be in the top 5% of the league. He's as steady as they come in the tier below the true fantasy aces.
Aroldis Chapman, Kansas City Royals - Chapman injured his mouth after slipping and falling at his house on Saturday, and required some stitches in his lip and he also cracked a tooth. It doesn't sound like he's going to miss any time going forward and the team said that he should through a bullpen session on Tuesday. Chapman could be in the mix for the closer role in Kansas City with Scott Barlow as the other real competition for the 9th. Chapman's K% dropped below 30% for the first time in his career last year and he also posted a BB% over 15% for the second straight season. It's not pretty, but the price is as cheap as it will ever be for the lefty and we know that the strikeouts will be there.
Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays - Glasnow strained an oblique on Monday and will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. He only threw six pitches before leaving the live BP session. Marc Tompkin said that the severity of the injury isn't known but that he expected to miss some time. Glasnow has been a popular pick as he's now in his first full season back following Tommy John surgery. Injuries have always been an issue with Glasnow over the years, so getting the 2023 season off to this start is a tough break.
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies - Aaron Nola struck out one batter and walked one over 2.0 innings in his 2023 spring debut. The strikeouts were interesting against a Pirates team that was extremely strikeout prone, but Nola did also throw 40% fastballs according to Baseball Savant when he's normally a 33% fastball pitcher. This could easily have been him just working on getting his fastball located and then we'll see him mix in more pitches in his future starts. In case this made you think different of Nola in any way, he's still a fantasy ace and a wagon of a starting pitcher.
Pablo Lopez, Minnesota Twins - Lopez had a strong debut with the Twins against Boston, fanning three over two innings and allowing a pair of hits. Lopez wasn't a particularly strong strikeout pitcher in Miami, so seeing him snag three against a mostly full Red Sox lineup is impressive. Lopez struck out 174 batters in 180 innings, and that 23.6% K% was a step back from the near 29% he had the prior season in Miami. Once we are able to see the savant data for the pitchers, we'll see if maybe the Twins tweak anything in his repitoire in any way to get him back towards the 30% strikeout rate he almost touched before.
Brendan Donovan, St Louis Cardinals - Donovan went yard for the second time in just a few days, and is turning heads a bit in camp with his early production. Donovan's profile last year paired top of the line plate discipline with some horrific batted ball data, but if he's starting to unlock some more of the contact skills there could really be something here. He had almost a .400 OBP in 468 plate appearances last season, and hit five homers to go with two steals. There have been some screenshots on twitter comparing his batting stance for each spring training, and he appears to be much more upright this year and it could be part of what's leading to the hot start. I'm certainly taking a note of him for the rest of spring training, but a real breakout could be happening here.
Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros - Whitley struck out two batters over two innings, allowing four hits and getting taken deep by Peyton Burdick. Whitley tossed 35 pitches in the outing, and he said afterwards that he felt great and his velocity was good. He also noted that he was mostly just focusing on filling up the zone with pitches, a good first step to his road back to pitching competitively. Whitley has dealt with a ton of injuries over the last few seasons, and it feels like it's been an eternity since he was once the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball. I'm watching him going forward, but it's nice to hear that he feels great after the first outing and I'm excited to see him progress this spring.
Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves - Harris went 2-for-3 at the plate Monday with a triple and a pair of RBI. Harris is coming off a ROY campaign that saw him hit 19 homers and swipe bags to go with his .297/.339/.514 slash line. Harris should hit towards the middle of an elite Braves lineup, but there's a couple things that he definitely can improve on at the plate. He doesn't walk a ton, but that's something he never did in the minor leagues and the strikeout rate could come down a bit. It's paired with a high chase-rate and whiff rate, so it's really just the swing and miss as a whole that could use a little tidying up since it's paired with such a poor walk rate.
Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves - Anderson will start on Tuesday for the Braves in his first appearance of spring training. Anderson is currently in a battle with Mike Soroka and Bryce Elder (and maybe Dylan Dodd) for the 5th spot in the Braves rotation. Anderson has been working on a slider according the David O'Brien, as the righty needs to find some sort of third pitch to keep batters honest. Elder's first appearance of the spring left a lot to be desired and we've yet to see Soroka throw yet this spring. Dodd had an excellent first appearance, but considering he just touched AAA in 2022 I'd be surprised if he got the leg up on the other options as of now.
Jarren Duran, Boston Red Sox - Duran went 2-for-2 at the plate on Monday with a homerun and a double. Duran was pretty horrific last year with a 38% hard-hit rate, a 28% strikeout rate and a 6% BB%. His barrel rate of 7.7% is actually kind of interesting considering how bad the contact as a whole was. He did swipe seven bags last year, and maintains one of the top sprint speeds in all of baseball. The issue though is where does he play... Right now the projected Red Sox outfield is Masataka Yoshida, Alex Verdugo, and Adam Duvall so there's a solid chance that Duran opens the year in AAA. Duvall might be the most replaceable of the bunch but we'll have to see how spring unfolds going forward before speculating on that at all.
Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates - Ke'Bryan Hayes launched a homerun Monday, the first of the spring for him. Since we had statcast data for this game he hit the ball 108.2 off the bat, which is still a few MPH shy of his max-exit velo from last season. Hayes is a very interesting player as he hits the ball insanely hard, even with a hurt wrist last season, posting a 113 max-exit velo and a 46% hard-hit rate. The problem though is that EVERYTHING is on the ground. He ran a 57% ground ball rate in 2021 and a 49.6% rate in 2022 but he did see a spike in his LD% last year jumping to 27%. If Hayes can begin to lift the ball with any sort of consistency there's a chance he breaks out, and fast. His 21% strikeout rate is perfectly manageable, and a 8.6% walk rate is solid as well. It's good plate skills that paired with a change in batted ball type makes me want to roster him everywhere.
Cal Quantrill, Cleveland Guardians - Quantrill is tinkering with his pitch mix according to Zack Meisel of The Athletic. Quantrill has said that he wants to rework his mix due to the glaring (my words) lack of swing and miss in his arsenal. He struck out just 128 batters in 186 innings, and toted just a 18.5% whiff rate for the season which is amongst the worst in the league. I'm not super sure how Quantill is effective at all. He managed to survive the lack of whiffs to a 3.38 ERA and a 15-5 record. This is a pitcher I want no part of and if I'm just missing the boat on him it just is what it is.
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers - Gavin Lux is undergoing a MRI after injuring his knee while attempting to move out of the way of a throw. The video of Lux's injury is rough, and looked like some sort of ligament tear for him but combining that with Lux saying he heard something pop it almost sounds like an ACL tear for him. Obviously not a doctor, but just connecting dots. Possibly it ends up being a ligament that isn't the ACL, but all the arrows are pointing in that direction. This would almost certainly rule him out for the season and that's a huge loss considering he was penciled in at shortstop to replace Trea Turner. Interal options for the position would likely be Miguel Rojas or Chris Taylor, but both of them should be a fill-in at the position and not a final answer. I'd expect the Dodgers to sign a veteran shortstop to fill the spot as opposed to going to one of the prior full-time.
Jared Kelenic, Seattle Mariners - Jared Kelenic had bad day Monday, but his spring has been off to a strong start with both of his homers leaving the park and he's driven in three runs. Kelenic's time as a major leaguer has been rough, the prospect pedigree is still here to keep me intrigued. Kelenic ran a 33% strikeout rate last season but he does have a 114 max-exit velo which is in the top 10% of the league. The consistency of the hard contact is the rough part though as he definitely needs to make strong contact much more consistently. On Roster Resource, Kelenic is currently slated as the left fielder in the Mariners lineup as even after the acquisition of Teoscar Hernandez there's still an open spot in the outfielder potentially for him.